Produce at The Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis

Is winter over yet?!?!  Urgh!

The winter months are always a challenge with snow, darkness and cold.  But it brings an eating conundrum too:  how do you feed your family while staying true to your green values when the frozen tundra replaces farms and gardens within a thousand miles for five months???

I can’t wait for delicious spring foods to hit the grocery store and Farmers Market.    Teeny baby carrots, fresh new potatoes, crunchy watercress and earthy asparagus grown organically and locally, define spring for me.

Here are my tips for getting through the winter with smart, healthy and sustainable food choices in the land of 10,000 ice fishing holes:

Expand your definition of local – In the winter, buying local has a new meaning.  With Farmers Markets closed and the growing season done, “locally grown” can expand to warm climate states in the U.S..  Check the label to see where your produce is grown.  Opt for U.S. grown rather than imported from out of the country.

Start an herb window garden – All you need is a sunny windowsill with a south or southeast exposure that gets 4-5 hours of sunlight each day.  Get a container with 6-12 inches of organic potting soil and plant your locally purchased herbs in one large pot or several small.  Chives, rosemary, thyme, sage, and parsley are all good basics that can enhance soups, salads or main dishes.  

Go frozen – Yes, a freezer does use energy, but likely, you have a freezer already pulling power as part of your fridge.  If you are ambitious in the summer and fall, freeze fruits and veggies from the Farmers Market when they are fresh.  Or buy U.S. grown or better yet, locally-grown organic frozen produce to get you through the winter.  Frozen goods are nutritious because they are picked and frozen at their seasonal best.   

Have a canning party  – Proper storage can ensure that fruits and vegetables will last through the winter months allowing you to take advantage of local goods when they are in season and inexpensive.  Canning with family, friend or neighbors is a fun activity and many hands make it possible to can a winter’s worth in a weekend.

Shop at a local food co-opThe Wedge in Minneapolis, Linden Hills Co-opMississippi Market, and Lakewinds are all good choices.  The food co-ops do the research so that you don’t have to.  They select the best vendors and balance the issues related to our food sources -- the environment, nutrition, ethics, fair trade – all with the local community in mind.

Try sustainable greenhouse raised produce
Perfect Circle, located in the heart of the Midwest, uses renewable energy for heat, energy saving LED lighting for growing, and are located in small local communities creating hundreds of jobs.  You can find their produce at many food co-ops and some mainstream grocers.   

Let me know your ideas for winter eating.  Happy spring!!

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